Follow-up to After Spray-and-Pray. As established in the flash history lesson on NPR’s podcasting adventures over the past ten years, there’s a ton of upside in concentrating resources, maintaining a disciplined focus, and not stretching yourself too thin. At least, that’s what I learned from the NPR example, and it’s something that USA Today and ESPN are both learning as they go along with their respective podcasting plans as well.
But I think it’s also worth raising the point that it’s entirely possible to swing way too hard towards this direction, where every new project is the subject of extreme scrutiny and consternation over focused resource allocation that results in high return expectations. There should also be room, I’d argue, for organizations to foster an ancillary lower-stakes environment where people feel free to try stuff out; not only would you benefit from the possibility of stumbling upon an innovative hit, you’d also be creating room for newer, younger, and untested talent to get some reps and attain some fundamental experience.
NPR’s podcast inventory might have once been an unruly, under-managed space with relatively little literal returns, but I’m willing to wager that it was also passable environment of experimentation, learning, and freedom. The question for the professionalizing podcast space, and companies therein, is how to preserve that space while everything else formalizes into more efficient strategic workflows.
Did you catch the whole public radio and The Daily news? In case you missed it: The New York Times is partnering up with American Public Media to distribute The Daily throughout the public radio broadcast system. The radio version will be thirty minutes long, contain spots for both local and regional underwriting, and be positioned for the evening commute.
This will, of course, be subjected to an extended analysis in this coming Tuesday’s Hot Pod issue, once I fully process the entire situation in my head.
But for now, a quick behind-the-scenes peek: I first learned about the news on Monday, when a press release hit my inbox that contained an embargo for the following afternoon. The timing, though utterly annoying given the Tuesday morning drop-time of Hot Pod, made sense; the Code Media conference was by then well underway, and it seemed that the team was working to time the announcement with their appearance at the conference. Shouts, though, to both PR teams for letting me tease the news in the newsletter anyway.
I did, however, also think it was a bummer that the news would steal some thunder away from Vox Media’s Today, Explained announcement week. I would’ve loved to dedicate a good portion of next week’s newsletter discussing the choices of the debut episode, but now, alas, I have to split it with the many, many fascinating threads, questions, and issues baked into the prospect of The Daily hitting broadcast radio, which has kicked up more negative responses than I had originally expected.
Not directly related, but: The relationship between podcasts and blogs, as historical narratives about the evolution of digital forms, is one that I’m endlessly fascinated with, which is why I’m plugging this Nieman Lab interview with Jason Kottke, on the Kottke.org blog turning twenty:
The way I’ve been thinking about it lately is that I am like a vaudevillian. I’m the last guy dancing on the stage, by myself, and everyone else has moved on to movies and television. The Awl and The Hairpin have folded. Gawker’s gone, though it would probably still be around if it hadn’t gotten sued out of existence.
On the other hand, blogging is kind of everywhere. Everyone who’s updating their Facebook pages and tweeting and posting on Instagram and Pinterest is performing a bloggish act…
…. One of the compelling things about blogs, for me, was that you had individual people presenting links and information that were a little view into what that person was interested in, and what was interesting about this person. As blogs got bigger, things like Gawker and Engadget and all those sorts of blogs took off — commercial blogs with teams of people doing it; it wasn’t so much an individual thing anymore. I like the personal curation and filtering, and where you find that these days, for better for worse, is Twitter and Facebook.
Do read the whole thing, which also has a lot to say about independent creation revenue models in 2018.